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Mental health boss' in tray: What will Jonathan Warren need to focus on?

PUBLISHED: 08:24 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:42 27 March 2019

Professor Jonathan Warren, new chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Picture: NSFT

Professor Jonathan Warren, new chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Picture: NSFT

Justin Setterfield

The new boss of the region's failing mental health has a difficult task in front of him - to turn around a trust first branded as inadequate four years ago and twice again since.

But what should new Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) chief executive Professor Jonathan Warren focus on?

1. Out of area bed placements - The most recent data shows a shocking 82 patients were sent outside of Norfolk and Suffolk for a mental health bed in January, representing 1,359 bed days. This number has dramatically risen, despite repeated promises to eradicate the practice. Prof Warren needs to get a handle on this, or finally admit what inspectors have repeatedly told the trust is true - that they do not have enough beds.

2. Waiting times - A big part of the trust’s most recent inspection report was waiting times, with 36 people waiting more than five years for treatment. Bosses have admitted this is not good enough, and work is going in to bring lists down - with seemingly positive results. But Prof Warren must make sure people can get into the services his trust provides.

3. Staffing - NSFT currently has around 200 nursing vacancies, and campaigners this month raised concerns plans for placing mental health staff in GP surgeries could rip existing staff away from the trust. Prof Warren will not only have to passionately hold on to the staff he has - and that means making sure they are happy - but also come up with creative ways to attract new people into a struggling sector.

4. Listening to patients - A big criticism of previous chief executive Antek Lejk made by campaigners was that during the interview stages, he was rejected by patients and carers. The key to getting things right at NSFT is listening to those who use services, and it seems that with Prof Warren this was the case with campaigners invited to give their views. For too long the trust has worked against campaigners who only want what is best for patients, it seems there is a change especially as more board members engage on social media with those who want improvements.

5. Leadership - Another refreshing change of pace seems to be an admission that things have gone wrong. Marie Gabriel has taken over as chair from the East London Trust and soon after Prof Warren was announced as the new chief executive. The proof will be in the pudding but if the executive team follows through on their word, change could be on the way.

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